Friday, December 09, 2005

The Brattle and the Devil's Rejects

I posted this before in my old blog, but I'll post it here again - a friendly reminder that the Brattle Theater in Boston, one of America's oldest and most celebrated revival theaters, is in danger of going out of business if they do not raise $400,000 by the end of this year. If they close their doors it would be a terrible loss for Boston and for the film-loving world at large, so please, help them out. And now, for today's review.

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Don't believe the hype, folks: The Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie's second stint in the director's chair, is a fun little escursion, but hardly the "best horror film of recent years" as the internet fanboys seem to be making it out to be. Rejects is the sequel to Zombie's allegedly far-inferior directorial debut, House of 1,000 Corpses, which I can say now that I'm sure to avoid. The murderous Firefly family have their farmhouse attacked by the cops, and only brother and sister duo Otis and Baby escape unscathed. After several more grisly murders along the highway, they team up with their pal Captain Spaulding, eventually facing up against a highly pissed-off local sherrif with a score to settle.

Any chump could be able to tell you that The Devil's Rejects is an homage to the drive-in/grindhouse films of the 70's, and as such, it isn't very good. The thing about nostalgic, "refrential" films such as these is that the filmmakers pick a "look" from a certain cinematic time period and then come up with story to fit, rather than considering the story first. Combine this with the fact that, well...it's written and directed by a rock musician. Watching his script delivered by Bill Moseley and his wife Sheri Moon Zombie, as Rob has them use uses "fuck" for just about every other word, presumably attempting tomake them sound badass but having them come off instead like eleven-year-olds allowed out for the first time without mom. And then, of course, there is the sickening violence and extreme cruelty. I can handle, hell, even enjoy such things within the arc of a better movie, but here it just seems a bore - Zombie merely succumbs to "Tarantio's Disease," i.e., the desire to remake his favorite movies all at once.

That's not to say The Devil's Rejects isn't any fun at all - there are a few moments of gold to be found here. Veteran b-actor Sig Haig's character Captain Spaulding, is a complete joy. Headbutting women, threatening small children, and spouting one-liners through his horribly bad teeth, he's one of the coolest villains of recent horror films, not to mention one of the ugliest clowns in cinematic history. William Forsythe's tough-as-nails sherrif character is great fun, too. One of his greatest scenes occurs when he discovers that fire murderous family's aliases all come from characters Groucho Marx played in his movies (Cpt. Spaulding, Rufus T. Firefly, and Otis Driftwood), and calls in a moustached, Leonard Maltinesque film critic who is a Marx Brothers expert. The critic is such a huge movie nerd he knows that Groucho played God in Otto Preminger's Skidoo, but can't seem to offer the police anything but trivia facts. The deputy suggest they "bring in this Groucho guy" for some questioning, and the critic angrily laments how Groucho died in 1977, three days before "Elvis Goddamn Presley" stole his thunder by expiring three days later. The sherrif angrily ejects him from his office, proclaiming "if you ever say one more dorogatory word about Elvis Aaron Presley in my presense, I will kick the living shit out of you." It's a great scene - the cinema classics nerd butting heads with the anti hero of the types of movies that Zombie obiviously prefers. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Rob Zombie is fully aware of his own film-geekery, but it doesn't necessarily make this a better movie as a whole.

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